GDP up, happiness down

Dec 16, 2011

The gross domestic product of the United States -- that oft-cited measure of economic health -- has been ticking upward for the last two years.

But what would you see if you could see a graph of gross domestic happiness?

A team of scientists from the University of Vermont have made such a graph -- and the trend is down.

Reporting in the Dec. 7 issue of the journal , the team writes, "After a gradual upward trend that ran from January to April, 2009, the overall time series has shown a gradual , accelerating somewhat over the first half of 2011."

"It appears that happiness is going down," said Peter Dodds, an applied at UVM and the lead author on the new study.

How does he know this? From Twitter. For three years, he and his colleagues gathered more than 46 billion words written in Twitter by 63 million Twitter users around the globe.

In these billions of words is not a view of any individual's state of mind. Instead, like billions of moving atoms add up to the overall temperature of a room, billions of words used to express what people are feeling resolve into a view of the relative mood of large groups.

These billions of words contain everything from "the" to "pancakes" to "suicide." To get a sense of the emotional gist of various words, the researchers used a service from Amazon called Mechanical Turk. On this website, they paid a group of volunteers to rate, from one to nine, their sense of the "happiness" -- the emotional temperature -- of the ten thousand most common words in English. Averaging their scores, the volunteers rated, for example, "laughter" at 8.50, "food" 7.44, "truck" 5.48, "greed" 3.06 and "terrorist" 1.30.

The Vermont team then took these scores and applied them to the huge pool of words they collected from Twitter. Because these tweets each have a date and time, and, sometimes, other demographic information -- like location -- they show changing patterns of word use that provide insights into the way groups of people are feeling.

The new approach lets the researchers measure happiness at different scales of time and geography -- whether global patterns over a workweek -- or on Christmas.

And stretched out over the last three years, these patterns of word use show a drop in average happiness.

Or at least at drop in happiness for those who use Twitter. "It does skew toward younger people and people with smartphones and so on -- but Twitter is nearly universal now," Dodds said, "Every demographic is represented."

"Twitter is a signal," Dodds said, "just like looking at the words in the New York Times or Google Books." (Word sources that the team is also exploring in related studies). "They're all a sample," he says. "And indeed everything we say or write is a distortion of what goes on inside our head."

But -- like GDP is a distortion of the hugely complex interactions that make up the economy and yet is still useful -- the new approach by the UVM team provides a powerful sense of the rising and falling pulse of human feelings.

"Individual happiness is a fundamental societal metric," the researchers write in their study. Indeed the ultimate goal of much public policy is to improve and protect happiness. But measuring happiness has been exceedingly difficult by traditional means, like self-reporting in social science surveys. Some of the problems with this approach are that people often don't tell the truth in surveys and the sample sizes are small.

And so efforts to measure happiness have been "overshadowed by more readily quantifiable economic indicators such as ," the study notes.

The new approach lets the UVM researchers almost instantaneously look over the "collective shoulder of society," Dodds says. "We get a sense of the aggregate expressions of millions of people," says Dodds's colleague Chris Danforth, a mathematician and a co-author the study, while they are communicating in a "more natural way," he says. And this opens the possibility of taking regular measures of happiness in near real-time -- measurements that could have applications in public policy, marketing and other fields.

The study describes hundreds of insights from the Twitter data, like a clear weekly happiness signal "with the peak generally occurring over the weekend, and the nadir on Monday and Tuesday," they write. And over each day happiness seems to drop from morning to night. "It's part of the general unraveling of the mind that happens over the course of the day," said Dodds.

In the long-term graph that shows an overall drop in happiness, various ups and downs are clearly visible. While the strongest up-trending days are annual holidays like Christmas and Valentine's Day, "all the most negative days are shocks from outside people's routines," Dodds say. Clear drops can be seen with the spread of swine flu, announcement of the U.S. economic bailout, the tsunami in Japan and even the death of actor Patrick Swayze.

"In measuring happiness, we construct a tunable, real-time, remote sensing, and non-invasive, text-based hedonometer," the Vermont scientists write. In other words, a happiness sensor.

Right now the sensor is only available to the researchers, but Dodds, Danforth and their colleagues have in mind a tool that could go "on the dashboard" of policy makers, Dodds says. Or, perhaps, on a real estate website for people exploring communities into which they might move, or, simply, "if someone is flying in a plane they could look at this dashboard and see how the city below them is feeling," he says.

Of course feelings change quickly and the nature of happiness itself is one of the most complex, profound issues of human experience.

"There is an important psychological distinction between an individual's current, experiential happiness and their longer term, reflective evaluation of their life," the scientists write, "and in using Twitter, our approach is tuned to the former kind."

And looking ahead, the Vermont scientists hope that by following the written expressions of individual users over long time periods, they'll be able to infer details of happiness dynamics "such as individual stability, social correlation and contagion and connections to well-being and health."

Dodds and his colleagues are no strangers to the debates over the role of happiness that can be traced back through Brave New World to Jeremy Bentham, Thomas Aquinas, and Aristotle. "By measuring happiness, we're not saying that maximizing happiness is the goal of society," Dodds says. "It might well be that we need to have some persistent degree of grumpiness for cultures to flourish."

Nevertheless, this study provides a new view on a compelling question: why does seem to be declining?

Explore further: Violence rates can be halved in just 30 years, say leading experts

Provided by University of Vermont

4.1 /5 (11 votes)

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User comments : 34

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thuber
5 / 5 (4) Dec 16, 2011
This is simply not true, since the new way of measuring GDP includes 16 Trillion in FED monetary pumping and calls it "profit". It also includes a currency manipulated stock market as part of the GDP, which will evaporate when the Euro collapses via the US Stock Market - Euro correlation, which is at 0.85 due to all the government market intervention. The world is still deleveraging, and GDP is in fact decreasing all over the world. The U-6 US Unemployment metric remains unchanged at 17%. The layoffs are booked as lower costs and hence added to the profit line, which is then factored into GDP. It is pure fraud to say that GDP is increasing.
Vendicar_Decarian
0.9 / 5 (45) Dec 16, 2011
"Borrowing a trillion dollars plus was the greatest thing we ever did." - Ronald Reagan Budget Advisor.

America's collapse started with Reagan's NeoConservtive/ Libertarian Economic policies, which habituated the U.S. economy on an orgy of Republican deficit spending that continued under Bush Sr. paused under Clinton (Democrat), and then rapidly accelerated under the incompetent Bush Jr.

Obama has been left to pick up the pieces and try to prevent the U.S. from entering into a grand decades long economic depression, while the Teapublicans are promoting policies that ignore history, ignore economic reality, and seem to be designed to trigger an economic depression as rapidly as possible.

Nanobanano
4 / 5 (8) Dec 16, 2011
Even if hte GDP had gone up, it would be attributed to automation.

Humans have been replaced.

That's not necessarily a bad thing in some isolated circumstances, but the unintended, global consequences is very high unemployment rates.

The Teapublican solution is "work harder, get a better education, etc" And yet, doesn't matter how educated you become, you can't get a job if jobs don't exist.

Even if everyone had 10 phds: one in every branch of science, humanities, and philosophy, it wouldn't make the TeaTard policy work, because "somebody" would still work at the burger joint for minimum wage. Somebody would still be carpenters who make less than nearly anyone else in the trades. Somebody would still be fishermen and welders and farmers, etc.

They'd be highly educated, but they'd make no more money for it, and they'd just owe more money to unforgiving capitalistic system from going to school. In the end, they would actually be worse off.
solartek
5 / 5 (2) Dec 16, 2011
less than 15 million twitter users follow 50 or more people. those that do are probably angry that it's a meaningless experience. why exactly is twitter the gauge for humanity, because it has an easy to access api? the users simply aren't there.
kaasinees
3.5 / 5 (6) Dec 16, 2011
There are so many possibilities to create more jobs. Personalized health care. More universities with research centers. More localized green technology that usually requires high maintenance, etc.
But instead jobs are intentionally destroyed. Health care is intentionally destroyed, etc.

The whole bonds, stocks and investors system is a joke. They literally empower people to dictate governments by lobbying and adjusting interest rates etc. just because someone happens to be born rich or get rich from fraud or raping people of their money etc.

Its all inter-webbed into corruption.
Callippo
3.3 / 5 (7) Dec 16, 2011
The gross domestic product of the United States -- that oft-cited measure of economic health -- has been ticking upward for the last two years.
It's a result of dollar inflation, not the actual growth of industry.
MorituriMax
5 / 5 (3) Dec 16, 2011
I don't want to beat a dead horse or get all political, I'm just amazed and wonder, if it's going up where is it going?

And no, I'm not assuming it's going into the pockets of a few new world order secret society trillionaires who want to collect all the paper money in the world.
wealthychef
2.5 / 5 (2) Dec 16, 2011
I think this was bad methodology. I think they should have had Turks rate passages as being happy or sad, then used AI to rate words inside those passages for happiness. Out of context, words look very different.
kochevnik
1 / 5 (5) Dec 16, 2011
I don't want to beat a dead horse or get all political, I'm just amazed and wonder, if it's going up where is it going
Rothschilds, through their central banks, are buying up all the world's gold. They're off the paper money kick and going for something more permanent for themselves. They along with the Vatican will own the vast preponderance of gold bullion.

England, for example, has sold more than half it's gold in the past two years.
Vendicar_Decarian
0.8 / 5 (43) Dec 16, 2011
"I don't want to beat a dead horse or get all political, I'm just amazed and wonder, if it's going up where is it going?" - Mortituri

Well.. In part it has gone to the record cash holdings of Corporations which in America alone amounts to more than 4 trillion dollars.

A lot of the wealth has gone to the upper 1 percent of the U.S. population, and much of it has been offshored in the form of foreign purchases, interest in the debt, and in the construction of factories in China and elsewhere.

And of course, much of the wealth never existed in the first place. It was an illusion fueled by speculation, artificial growth stimulated by massive government and personal debts, etc.

Remember that all debt creates artificial money in a fractional reserve banking system.

Callippo
1.5 / 5 (4) Dec 16, 2011
There are so many possibilities to create more jobs.
The jobs itself will not create the wealth, because they just consume another raw source materials and energy. You should embrace a new empty colony or to implement new finding, like the cold fusion. You should improve quality, not the quantity to change the ratio of production and consumption.
ryggesogn2
1.8 / 5 (5) Dec 16, 2011
Try correlating 'happiness' with the percentage of people employed in the private sector.
350
3.7 / 5 (6) Dec 17, 2011
GDP Up - Unemployment Unchanged only means what everyone has known for a long time: The Elites are making more money, and there is less money for everyone else.

Put simply, there is more money in the hands of fewer people.
James_Mooney
4.4 / 5 (7) Dec 17, 2011
Another fraud besides GDP is inflation, which Doesn't measure food and fuel. Duhh. How can you Not measure two of the main costs to the lower and middle classes? It makes the inflation rate as bogus as the unemployment rate, which counts substandard, part-time work as a job, but doesn't measure those who have given up looking. It's all a fraud.
kochevnik
2.6 / 5 (7) Dec 17, 2011
Another fraud besides GDP is inflation
Also since Regan took over inflation is gauged to include technology. So when pricing a $2000 computer, today's 2ghz computer is 2ghz/20mhz = 100 times cheaper than a 1990 20mhz computer. The price for a modern computer today is therefore $20 for purposes of calculating inflation.
Vendicar_Decarian
0.6 / 5 (41) Dec 17, 2011
Try correlating 'happiness' with the percentage of people employed in the private sector." - RyggTard

The Republicans - following Libertarian Ideology have been doing their best to destroy America's middle class and the public sector for the last 50 years.

Wage levels have been kept artificially high through the Borrow and Spend policies of the Republicans.

Well, the orgy of spending is now over and everyone - except the rich - are now being asked to pay their bar tab to the very same Republicans who threw the party and told everyone that there was free beer.

Now we have sadness when the duped realize that they are legally bound to pay, and are blaming the Liberal City Council for paving the roads and providing bus service to the party of parties.

Vendicar_Decarian
0.5 / 5 (39) Dec 17, 2011
"Another fraud besides GDP is inflation, which Doesn't measure food and fuel. Duhh." - James

Core inflation excludes fuel and food.
Inflation includes both fuel and food.

Core inflation excludes volatile commodities that are inflexible to market shortages.

ShotmanMaslo
4 / 5 (1) Dec 17, 2011
I will just leave this here..
http://upload.wik...ness.png
Cin5456
5 / 5 (1) Dec 17, 2011
That map seems off somehow. The Chinese are not that happy, and in the United Arab Emerites only the elite are happy. I also think that Central America is not that happy either, otherwise they would not be seeking jobs over the border.
ryggesogn2
1.8 / 5 (5) Dec 17, 2011
Another fraud besides GDP is inflation, which Doesn't measure food and fuel. Duhh. How can you Not measure two of the main costs to the lower and middle classes? It makes the inflation rate as bogus as the unemployment rate, which counts substandard, part-time work as a job, but doesn't measure those who have given up looking. It's all a fraud.

Inflation is the devaluation of the dollar because the govt printed too many. Govts like inflation as it is a hidden tax. One of the best ways to judge real inflation is to compare the costs of commodities in terms of unit commodity. For example, what is the cost of oil per unit gold, or silver?
Some prices, like computer 'deflation' is due to efficiencies and obsolescence and demand, not currency inflation or deflation.
GDM
2.3 / 5 (3) Dec 17, 2011
By the way, horading all the gold in the world will do no good if the monetary systems collapse. I'd rather have a monopoly on chickens. Gold doesn't fry up well and chickens reproduce themselves.
kaasinees
3 / 5 (2) Dec 17, 2011
I will just leave this here..
http://upload.wik...ness.png


Lol that map is very biased.

How do you measures happiness anyway?!
ryggesogn2
1.5 / 5 (8) Dec 17, 2011
By the way, horading all the gold in the world will do no good if the monetary systems collapse. I'd rather have a monopoly on chickens. Gold doesn't fry up well and chickens reproduce themselves.

What will you use to buy oil to fry the chickens?
How will you maintain a monopoly? Chickens are easily raised.
People have used gold silver for money for thousands of years precisely because they have better chance of knowing the quantity exchanged, it doesn't corrode loosing value and rare.
You can have all the chickens, I would keep the hoard of gold and use it to buy beef, ...

It doesn't really matter how you value gold. What matters is how anyone else you want to trade with values gold.
ShotmanMaslo
2.3 / 5 (3) Dec 17, 2011
The Chinese are not that happy


How do you know? The chinese have been experiencing great economical growth and modernisation in the past decade or two, and it is still ongoing. It makes sense for them to be relatively happy (at least relatively to other poorer countries).

Lol that map is very biased.


Biased in what sense?

How do you measures happiness anyway?!


You ask people? It is not objective measurement, tough.
kochevnik
2.6 / 5 (5) Dec 17, 2011
@me Rothschilds, through their central banks, are buying up all the world's gold. They're off the paper money kick and going for something more permanent for themselves. They along with the Vatican will own the vast preponderance of gold bullion.
By voting me down GDM, MarkyMark, geokstr, orac seem to love usery, MERS mortgage fraud, fractional-reserve banking, the war on terror and fighting wars for bankers. What an inspiring group of traitors...I mean debators.

BTW voting down documented facts is a red flag for retardation. They have issues with reality.
Vendicar_Decarian
0.3 / 5 (38) Dec 18, 2011
This is a common claim made by Libertarian/Randite/Republican Morons.

"Inflation is the devaluation of the dollar because the govt printed too many." - RyggTard

In fact Inflation comes from many sources. Printing money is one of them and is the easiest for small thinkers like RyggTardBoy to comprehend.

Other sources include the velocity of money. The faster money circulates the less it is worth - all other things being equal.

In fractional reserve systems, borrowing creates money, and that also is a cause of inflation.

Wage inflation is also a component, as workers demand higher pay and producers increase their prices in turn.

The opposite is also true. Corporations increasing their prices and workers increasing their demands for higher pay in turn.

And then there is growing resource scarcity which drives up prices and hence increases the velocity of money and wages, and prices.

Inflation is also a desired response to population growth.

Cont...
Vendicar_Decarian
0.3 / 5 (38) Dec 18, 2011
A population of 1,000 people might do well with a combined wealth of $1,000, but grow the population to 350 million and there are not enough dollars to be distributed among the people.

The Childihs Quack Tard Universe that Libertarians and Randites like RyggTard live in has little connection to reality.
Vendicar_Decarian
0.2 / 5 (37) Dec 18, 2011
"One of the best ways to judge real inflation is to compare the costs of commodities in terms of unit commodity. For example, what is the cost of oil per unit gold, or silver?" - RyggTard

Really?

Lets check shall we...

Gold prices in March 1990 were $370. A loaf of bread cost around a buck back then.

Currently gold prices are around $1600 and bread costs around $2.00 a loaf.

So according to RyggTard's theory, Bread prices have dropped in half over that time.

In fact if you look over all items in the inflation basket, the same trend will hold.

So according to RyggTard's Quack Tard Libertarian economic Ideology the cost of living today is half of what it was back in the 90's.

Why? Well because people are hoarding gold of course.

I have never encountered a Libertarian who wasn't a congenital and perpetual liar.

Vendicar_Decarian
0.2 / 5 (37) Dec 18, 2011
You boil or bake the chickens you blithering Idiot, and then render the resulting oil for next time.

"What will you use to buy oil to fry the chickens?" - RyggTard

RyggTard must never have cooked a chicken in his pathetic, brain dead, life.
ShotmanMaslo
4 / 5 (1) Dec 18, 2011
A population of 1,000 people might do well with a combined wealth of $1,000, but grow the population to 350 million and there are not enough dollars to be distributed among the people.


What is "not enough dollars"? If number of people, production and material wealth increases, and amount of money (and velocity) stays approximately fixed, prices will simply drop. Absolute numerical value of money is not important.
ryggesogn2
1 / 5 (1) Dec 18, 2011
Badly in debt Europeans govt are selling gold to raise cash to try and avoid economic collapse.
The Swiss recently experienced a deflating currency because all other currencies around them were inflating. This is good news for those who hold CHF and want to buy imports but not so good for exporters who want to sell products in other currencies. (This is exactly the economic isolationism many promote.)
A stable currency was the original mandate of the govt agency the Federal Reserve. They have failed miserably at that as they promote inflation.
GDM
3 / 5 (2) Dec 18, 2011
No kochevnik, I tend to vote you down because you resort to name-calling, but sometimes you have good arguments. Other times, you seem a bit paranoid. I vote by the logic, relevance, and maturity of a post.
However, I tend to vote down ryggesong2 for those same reasons. He lacks logical ability (ie, his response to my recent post above), is blatently closed-minded, and frequently resorts to name calling. To paraphrase a line from the ancient "Star Trek" TV series, "what he says is unimportant." He is not worth responding to at all. Don't you fall into that trap as well.
ryggesogn2
1 / 5 (1) Dec 18, 2011
GDM, where is the logic in having a monopoly on chickens?
If you were the only living person on the planet, you would no need gold.
But if you wanted to trade your chickens for something made half way around the world, how would you keep your chickens alive to trade?
So if you lived in a world with other people who have things you want and they don't want chickens, how will you obtain them?
After all, chickens are easy to raise so you will soon loose your monopoly, and they have short lifespan.
When govt backed fiat currency systems collapse, having gold is better then having chickens. You can more easily trade gold for anything you need.
Even govts hoard gold to prop up their currencies.
GDM, explain YOUR logic of owning all the chickens in the world over having a supply of gold?
Vendicar_Decarian
0.2 / 5 (35) Dec 19, 2011
Ah. More Libertarian Tard Boy logic from RyggTard.

If you have a monopoly on chickens then you don't have a monopoly on chickens.

A true Capitalist who had a monopoly on chickens would send some goons around town to burn down the houses of those who tried to raise their own.

You know.. Like Libertarian hero Tomas Edison did when people refused to pay his Edison movie Tax.

Such spectacular idiocy from RyggTard.